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The Year of Dylan


A picture of Dylan Alcott with his Australian of the Year award on a black and organge background. A picture of the author, Ben Aldridge, is super-imposed on the top left

My man, Dylan Alcott. 15 time Grand Slam winner. Four time Olympic gold medallist. First male athlete to ever win a Golden Slam. Disability advocate, mentor, employer and philanthropist. We can now add Australian of the Year to the list of accolades.


Anyone who knows me (or reads these blogs) knows all too well of my man crush on Dyl. Not only is he an inspirational athlete and person, he’s an incredible leader and advocate for the disability community. Sure, like anyone, he’s only human. Some people agree with him, others vocally do not. Most people love him.


So, when it was announced that Dylan was our 2022 Australian of the Year, you can imagine how overjoyed I was with the news. That this man’s efforts were not only being recognised, but that he now had an even bigger platform to advocate on our behalf.


You only have to look at the recent history of Australian of the Year recipients and what that exposure has done for their respective causes – Grace Tame and sexual abuse. Rosie Batty and family violence. Adam Goodes and Indigenous Australians.


With Dylan in the hot seat, you can only imagine what advancements we’ll see in our advocacy for the disability community.


Dylan himself has been vocal about what it is he’s hoping to see.


“My purpose...is to change perceptions so people with disability live the lives that they deserve to live,” he said when accepting the award¹. “I love my disability. It is the best thing that ever happened to me. It really is, and I’m so thankful for the life that I get to live.”


“But I know for the 4.5 million people in this country, one in five people that have a physical or nonphysical disability, they don’t feel the same way that I do and it’s not their fault.”


Dylan then went on to say that it was up to ALL Australians to change the narrative and outlined the ways that we can start, by:

  • Properly funding the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS)

  • Listening to people with lived experience, and asking them what they need

  • Investing in people with disability by finding gainful employment, further education and study opportunities, and promoting independent living

  • Improving the unemployment rate within the disability community, and

  • Increasing representation of people with disability “absolutely everywhere”

“In our boardrooms, in our parliaments, in our mainstream schools, on our dating apps, on our sporting fields, in our universities, absolutely everywhere, so we get the opportunity to start living our lives just like everybody else,” Dylan said when speaking of representation.


“I promise you, you won’t just enrich the lives of us, but also yourselves in the process.” I can’t disagree with anything he’s put forward. I mean, who could? Especially when, looking around, there’s still so much more we could be doing to include people with disability in our wider community.


For example, when Dylan’s win was announced many news outlets reported that he was “the first person with a disability to win the award in its 62 year history.” That’s not quite true. He’s the first person with a visible disability. This is just an example of how far our society has to go with both awareness and education, and why 30 Foot Drop continues to work hard at every day.


I know some people in the disability community aren’t the biggest fan of Dylan. They can’t agree with his sentiments of “loving disability” and not wishing for something else. And that’s ok – that’s absolutely their choice and their opinion. Personally (and I’ve said this plenty of times before) my life is far better now than what it was before my accident. That doesn’t mean it comes without it’s challenges; it just means, I’m happier.


What you absolutely can’t argue with is the sentiment at which he’s approaching the limelight. The fact he’s looking to use this year and this platform to better the situation and further the cause for all people with disability. To create equality.


Australian of the Year or not, I have no doubt Dylan would be using his time to advocate on behalf of the disability community. That said, I’m really, really excited to see how he can help turbo charge it as the 2022 Australian of the Year.


At 30 Foot Drop, we don’t go out of our way to ask people to follow us on social media; we don’t reach out to individuals or organisations to give us a like. We’d like to think our following is a result of people appreciating and supporting the good work that we’re doing in the community.


So you can only imagine my absolute glee when I received a notification letting me know that THE Dylan Alcott OAM was following us (enter school girl level squeals)! To me, having someone you truly admire and respect offer that kind of response in kind is extremely gratifying, and only burns the fire brighter for what 30 Foot Drop is doing. I’m pumped up!


With that said, if you haven’t already, give us a like or a follow. If Dylan did, surely it can’t be that bad!


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If you really like us, why not share our blogs with your friends and family. Even better, tell us which blogs you like or suggest a topic you’d like to know more about – we’d love to hear from you!


Sources:

¹ https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-01-26/dylan-alcott-australian-of-the-year-speech-in-full/100783308

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